From the Interview Archive: A 2013 conversation with Guthrie Ramsey, author of The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop

November 28th, 2023

.

.

In a 2013 Jerry Jazz Musician interview,  Guthrie Ramsey talks about Bud Powell, one of the greatest pianist’s in jazz history, and the collision of two vibrant political economies: the discourses of art and the practice of Blackness.

.

.

___

.

.

 

 

 

guthrieramsey

Guthrie Ramsey, author of

The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop

.

___

.

 

…..Bud Powell was not only one of the greatest bebop pianists of all time, he stands as one of the twentieth century’s most dynamic and fiercely adventurous musical minds. His expansive musicianship, riveting performances, and inventive compositions expanded the bebop idiom and pushed jazz musicians of all stripes to higher standards of performance.  Yet Powell remains one of American music’s most misunderstood figures, and the story of his exceptional talent is often overshadowed by his history of alcohol abuse, mental instability, and brutalization at the hands of white authorities.

…..In this first extended study of the social significance of Powell’s place in the American musical landscape, Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. shows how the pianist expanded his own artistic horizons and moved his chosen idiom into new realms. Illuminating and multi-layered, The Amazing Bud Powell centralizes Powell’s contributions as it details the collision of two vibrant political economies: the discourses of art and the practice of Blackness. (Description from the Publisher)

…..Ramsey discusses his  book with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita in this September 4, 2013 interview.

.

___

.

*

Unknown photographer, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Bud Powell, 1960

.

“Black male musicians of the 1940s streamed self-conscious ideas about who they were in the world through their art.  In the flatted fifths, rhythmic disjunction, and sheer velocity of bebop convention, we can find Bud and his peers.  But we also find him (and others like him) in other forms of representation, such as photography, and even in other kinds of art that shaped his social world, such as poetry and the visual arts.  In other words, we must examine the world into which Powell walked, a world in which life and musicianship challenged the post-World War II world on many levels.  When we look for Bud, we sift through many riches.”

– Guthrie Ramsey

.

Listen to the 1952 recording of Bud Powell playing “Bouncing with Bud,” featuring Fats Navarro, (trumpet); Sonny Rollins, (tenor saxophone); Tommy Potter (bass); and Roy Haynes (drums). [Universal Music Group]

 

.

JJM  Your book is subtitled, “Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop,” and focuses on all of these complex topics within the context of Bud Powell’s life and career. So, this interview will likely stretch beyond the life of Bud Powell. Why did you choose Bud Powell for this study?

GR  When I was a young musician coming up in the jazz scene in Chicago, where I grew up, many of the older musicians who saw that I was interested in jazz piano would give me a list of names I needed to know about. I definitely came up on the street playing jazz, and I learned from copying people and watching and studying. During that time, Bud Powell’s name kept coming up over and over again as a key figure that I needed to really pay attention to. Of course, you can spend your whole paycheck going to find and buy his albums and learn what was what about him, and that began my fascination with him.

Then, when I found myself in graduate school studying musicology, I discovered that I wanted to become a scholar. So, when you enter one of these high powered scholarly programs at the time that I did it, doing a jazz topic was still somewhat of a novelty, and there was this idea that you would be looked down on if you weren’t studying a European art music. Thankfully it’s not like that anymore.

JJM  You wrote this book as an educator…

GR  Yes. I’m a professor, so a big part of my life is to try to share with students not what to think, but how to think about things. What I try to do with this book is to offer readers a way to think about not only Bud Powell, but other artists as well.

JJM  Regarding Bud Powell, you wrote, “Despite his importance to jazz, [Powell] remains one of the music’s lesser known figures.” Why is so relatively little known about Bud Powell in comparison to the likes of Monk, Dizzy and Charlie Parker?

GR   The front line players were always going to get more attention in the press at that time. If you have two virtuoso horn players like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in the front playing the melodies and who are taking the first solos on recordings and during live performances, it’s easy to see why the pianist, the drummer and the bass player would be not the first order of interest.

More than that, he did not leave a lot of papers about himself behind, so his file at the Institute for Jazz Studies, for instance, is very thin. He also did not lead, in my opinion, a very vibrant public life, and his career was cut short. It wasn’t like Dizzy Gillespie’s, who led this very long career that could be documented, and who left a biography behind. In addition to that, there are just a lot of musicians to cover, and we are just starting to get to many of them. We really just need jazz scholars out there willing to do the work.

JJM  You wrote, “I have employed the term Afro-modernism to describe a specifically African American response to modernity, especially in the United States. Its concerns are not just aesthetic, but also social, political, and economic. Expressive practices such as music, photography, visual art, poetry, and literature both reflect and shape these domains. All these factors intersect in the world of one musician: Powell.” Can you explain that?

GR   At the time that Powell rose to prominence, there were lots of social changes afoot for African Americans, and for Americans in general. I see Powell’s career as emblematic of many of those changes.

One of the things I focused on in the book is the idea that he was one of the experimental musicians of his time. That to be a black man in the mid-’40s where people were still working on or beginning to work on civil rights for all Americans, he was focusing on what could only be thought of as a craft at the time. I employed the term Afro Modernism to take up all of the fantastic work that was going on in the arts at that time, but also social progress that we made in the political, economic and other cultural realms.

JJM   Concerning jazz manhood, you wrote, “The young black men in the bebop movement found in its aesthetic and assorted politics a patriarchal, heroic performance space, one that became the new musical language of ‘jazz manhood.” What constitutes jazz manhood?

GR  When I was coming up as a musician, we would often say among ourselves that he is “the man,” which meant he is supreme on his instrument, that he has a great knowledge of jazz standards, a virtuoso technique, and possesses an original voice within all the many voices available out there, particularly on the level of style. It’s just a term of respect when we say he is a jazz “man.” I actually took that “man” part of it seriously and tried to understand how the figure of the jazz man fit into larger patriarchal structures that we know exist in the world. It was a way of positioning the art of jazz within a larger field of cultural and social meaning.

The jazz players were mostly men at that time, and they were attempting to gain for themselves many of the advantages of traditional patriarchy – which also meant they wanted to be paid handsomely for what they did, and that they wanted traditional levels of respect for what they did. They also wanted to be thought of as a success, and as someone who had obtained the American dream. Rather than take those kinds of sentiments for granted, I had to try to rebuild them for what they really were, and to talk about these things musicians were negotiating in their everyday lives.

JJM In order for them to accomplish one of the goals of manhood, which, as you say, is to make a living, the geography of jazz had to change from Harlem to 52nd Street. How did this change alter the way their music was viewed?

GR  That change of geography from Harlem to 52nd Street meant that many of the musicians would no longer be in that very specific realm of after-hours experimentation. It took them “off the beaten path” and into a space where more people would hear them because, at that time, Harlem was in a state of economic decline and people weren’t flocking to hear music there as they did during the 1920’s.

It was a blessing for these musicians to be able to break the color line and get a gig on 52nd Street. It gave them an opportunity to be “in the sun” for a while, which means they were making money. This was seen as a new thing, and it was seen as a good thing, but it was short-lived because other forms of popular music like rhythm and blues were starting to emerge. That is where the money started going, and with it the popular attention, which left the bebop musicians to just continue on this creative path of experimentation that, in fact, took them out of the mainstream of economic opportunity.

JJM  Miles Davis said, “You went to 52nd to make money and be seen by the white music critics and white people.” These white audiences and especially the white critics were critiquing the music in a way that was elevating it from a popular music to an art form. One of those critics, Rudi Blesh, wrote that recognizing the jazz being played on 52nd Street jazz as an art form would ultimately lead to “an increasing awareness of the Negro’s stature and integrity as a man.” Another critic, Martin Williams, believed that jazz critics needed to take the music and the profession of jazz criticism more seriously. So, you inform your reader that there was a lot going on here other than just musicians playing in different rooms in a different part of town – the perception of the music was changing, and with it the way African American musicians and people were viewed…

GR  Yes, indeed. One of the ways to increase a music like bebop’s social pedigree is to talk about it in a universal aesthetic that everyone can understand, and that transcends its social setting. Now, if you start talking about the specifics of it, as I try to do, it really shows the push and pull of all of that, revealing that there were advantages and disadvantages of this. So, there were people taking the music seriously, but one of the ways they felt like they were taking it seriously was to not discuss the social aspects of it, and to just write about it as something to be praised or criticized just on the level of style. What I’m trying to do in my book is to infuse back into those objects some of the traces of the social history that they were part of.

JJM  You feel that Bud Powell was a good figure to revisit this history through, partly due to the fact he played in Cootie Williams’ band – a band that played swing and bebop as well as some rhythm and blues…

GR  That’s right, because Bud Powell got his first professional break with Cootie Williams, who was absorbing a lot of styles, and Bud was bringing some bebop elements into the band as well. Cootie Williams was playing what would be called a jump blues or an early rhythm and blues style as well. It’s just great to think about how Bud was playing, how he shifted nuances in his playing to fit into all of these different styles.

JJM  Concerning Powell and his being labeled “genius,” Cootie Williams said, “He was what you’d call a real genius. He was something else in his young age.” You wrote, “By the 1950s, within the communities of critics, musicians, scholars, and aficionados, Powell had earned the label ‘genius.” How does “genius” work, and how did Powell earn his “genius” title?

GR  We tend to think about the label “genius” as being associated with musicians who, depending on the genre, usually have an outsized technique. They could be someone who can get around their respective instrument in very stunning and amazing and jaw dropping ways. There’s something about virtuoso playing that just makes us stand still and be silent in the face of it, where you can’t really believe your ears.

And, particularly with black musicians, it may also mean that there’s some sort of challenge to be mounted outside of the music that makes their technical feats that much more fascinating – like if somebody is blind or if they are very young when they’re demonstrating all of this technique and musicianship beyond their years. In Powell’s case, he was a social outsider and mysterious, and the more mysterious you are, and the more you have influenced other musicians when all that stuff starts stacking up against you, you get the title “genius.”

JJM  According to some, his on stage persona contributed to that as well. Concerning this, you wrote, “Onstage, Powell cut an intriguing figure, a ‘highly individual stage persona,’ adopting an intense facial expression with tight lips, accompanied by ‘guttural grunting’ heard on many of his recordings because it was picked up through the piano mic: ‘He would generally sit sideways at the keyboard….His right leg would be twisted out, his foot stabbing the floor. His trouser legs had a tendency to ride up over his calves, and he would hunch his shoulders, giving a sense to the onlooker of his great physical involvement in the music.” The physical involvement he displayed on the stand, as scholar and musician David Ake reminds us, could be read by his audiences as his way to communicate a ‘sense of artistic and personal depth.”

GR  That’s right.

JJM He also had an on stage persona where he would stare at people in the audience and at fellow musicians in a way that made him appear “otherworldly.”

GR  Yes. He had an onstage visage that almost made one feel that he wasn’t completely there, contrasted with a music that’s issuing from his instrument as being totally present. I think that dichotomy is really part of what’s driving that “genius” title. People are trying to square what they’re hearing with what they’re seeing. There’s a kind of disruption there and it just made him a curious figure. And you’re right — it did make some people very uncomfortable.

One of the things that really struck me when I was going through what people thought about Bud Powell was when one of his colleagues, the bass player George Duvivier, said that he spent a number of years gigging with Bud Powell, but he didn’t know him, that he couldn’t tell you what he was like at all, that they just played music together. It’s very unusual to have a musician say that about somebody they have been playing with.

JJM  Powell’s identity likely came out in his music…

GR  I like that you said that because that’s what I believe – that much of what he was about and what he wanted us to know about him came out in his compositions, and in his music.

JJM The emergence of bebop came at a time when other art forms were emerging as well. You write, “Like jazz criticism, photographs of jazz musicians became an expressive domain that informed the ways in which bebop’s pedigree circulated in the public sphere. The diligence and artful sensibilities with which photographers began to frame jazz musicians had political as well as commercial implications.” What were the political implications found in the photos of Bud Powell?

GR  At the time that bebop was emerging it began to attract not only critics, but photographers as well. They were either working for magazines or record labels, or they were working on their own, and they began to photograph these musicians. How they composed the photographs became an art form of its own, and what it ultimately did was to get people to visually respond to the music in new ways. Gone were the completely staged publicity photographs that were used for getting gigs, and the photography became a separate art form.

Coupled with that was the emerging civil rights movement, where documentary photographs were a new way of showing the humanity of African Americans to people in parts of the country where they were not geographically or spatially around black people. These images began to circulate at the same time that the music did, and it just portrayed an aura of being progressive and looking towards the future and breaking down old kind of stereotypes.

JJM  Photographs were my “gateway drug” to jazz. I love the music, but it was the art that initially got my attention. And I think the impact the photos of the era had on people like me is understated. I am a white man, now near 60 years old, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay area during the civil rights movement, and the photos of jazz musicians and of those in the movement had a great deal more to do with demonstrating the humanity of black men and black musicians than we give it credit for.

GR   Yes, and in the 1960’s, television became important to this idea of social progress, because if scenes like the people being hosed down or being attacked by dogs were not filmed, people would not have necessarily believed that they took place – it was easy to dismiss that stuff as not actually happening. So, this emerging culture of documentation, combined with what the jazz photographers were doing in the 1940’s put us on the trajectory of our visual culture, and when that was combined with the music, the whole society had to follow.

JJM   You wrote, “Even as the troubled Powell languished in and out of confinements, jazz criticism was steadily extending its role as a global community theater animated by, among many other notions, two important ideals: that jazz was the perfect place to understand the long history of race relations and ‘raced’ expressions, and that because of American racism, Europe was better suited to provide black American musicians with the proper support structures for their art. Each of these beliefs would impact Powell’s life and music.” Is jazz still, as you wrote, “The perfect place to understand the long history of race relations?”

GR  I think it’s one of the perfect places, yes, but I also should say that any form of music or art can be an index to understand larger issues in our society. I made the claim about jazz being the “perfect place” because my book is a book about jazz, but you could make the same argument about rock and roll music.

JJM  Like so many other artists, writers and musicians, Bud Powell spent time in Paris. What were the conditions that made Paris so attractive to him?

GR  It had a lot do with the fact that there were different attitudes about the importance of music in society, and France had a history of serious jazz criticism that made it easier for musicians to be understood as serious artists. While critics like Martin Williams and LeRoi Jones were arguing in the 1950’s for the need for more serious jazz criticism, both in the music’s formal structures and its social relations, that had already been established in France in the 1930’s.

Another thing is that you can’t help but tie the singular reception of jazz in France to the whole sensitization of things “black” in French culture. There was this idea that they believed there was something very fundamental in the art of African and African-American cultures – whether it be an African mask or a jazz recording.

So, I think those kinds of things made moving to Paris appealing t Powell. Not only that, he had a super fan there. Francis Paudras was entirely devoted to his art, and one might even call him a patron, although I don’t think anybody has described him that way. Certainly black artists like Langston Hughes and Thelonious Monk had a patron, and these people would look out for them financially – and given Bud Powell’s challenges, he really needed someone to look out for him because he could not be left to his own devices to do that himself.

JJM  Powell was in Paris from 1959 to 1964, and when he returned to the United States he attempted to make a comeback that included some stunning performances, but overall his return was judged to be uneven and disappointing…

GR  That’s right. He was a classically trained prodigy who was incredibly musically prepared to step into the role that he did. But, to see where he started from and end up where did left many people very disappointed. If we think of a modern day analogy, it would be someone like Whitney Houston, who burst onto the scene as a very young, dynamic and charismatic performer, but after going through challenges and attempting a comeback, it was clear her instrument wasn’t the same as it was when she was younger. I think we want all of our performers like that to be sort of like Gladys Knight, who sounds just as good, if not better, than she did when she emerged on the scene.

One of the things that I get out of reading the contemporary accounts is that people were actually heartbroken to see what had become of Bud Powell. I don’t think people wanted to see a train wreck – they were pulling for him and had high hopes that someone who had participated in one of the great American musical revolutions was still alive. But, he couldn’t live up to that previous standard.

JJM  What is an important contribution he made to the history of bebop music?

GR  One would be that he was a leader in thinking about the modern jazz piano trio as being a viable platform for a pianist. Today when we see Robert Glasper or Jason Moran or Brad Mehldau playing with a bass player and a drummer and play the entire night in a post bebop style, I think that Bud Powell was instrumental in setting that up as a paradigm. Also, the general concept of how he played the piano with the left hand lightly supplying the harmonic structures of the song and the right hand playing these incredibly spun out melodies is what many, if not most, of all the jazz pianists playing today are using as a model.

.

.

___

.

.

“Powell’s early recordings show a crucial stage in bebop’s development, offering a snapshot of the revolution from the vantage point of a single musician.  His career took the familiar pattern of many other before and after him”  ‘a stage of apprenticeship and learning is clear, a time of growth and development follows, and a period of mature artistic creation at the highest level is attained.’  These recordings document the remarkable speeds with which Powell moved toward the realization of his mature style.  And, most important, in them we experience his own highly personalized synthesis of bebop convention, his own style: a blistering palimpsest consisting of Tin Pan Alley structure overlaid with virtusos melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic intensities.  It became a new language, and, indeed, one of the most influential styles in jazz history.”

 

– Guthrie Ramsey

.

.

 

Listen to the 1950 recording of Bud Powell playing “Get Happy,” with Curly Russell (bass) and Max Roach (drums).  [Universal Music Group]

.

.

___

.

.

 

About Guthrie Ramsey

 

Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr., is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Music and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the prize-winning nRace Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (UC Press).

.

 

If you enjoyed this interview, you may want to read our conversation with Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

.

.

___

.

.

Click here to read The Sunday Poem

Click here for information about how to submit your poetry or short fiction

Click here to subscribe to the (free) Jerry Jazz Musician quarterly newsletter

Click here to help support the ongoing publication of Jerry Jazz Musician, and to keep it commercial-free (thank you!)

.

___

.

.

Jerry Jazz Musician…human produced (and AI-free) since 1999

.

.

.

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

"Zambramomania" by Roberto Nucci/CC BY-NC-SA-4.0 DEED
“The Eye Tapes…Monument to my Jazzy Eye” by Anita Lerek

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Black History

The Harlem Globetrotters/photo via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: The Harlem Globetrotters...In this 2005 interview, Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, discusses the complex history of the celebrated Black touring basketball team.

Black History

photo of Zora Neale Hurston by Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress
A Black History Month Profile: Zora Neale Hurston...In a 2002 interview, Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, talks about the novelist, anthropologist, playwright, folklorist, essayist and poet

Black History

Eubie Blake
A Black History Month Profile – Pianist and composer Eubie Blake...In this 2021 Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Eubie Blake biographers Ken Bloom and Richard Carlin discuss the legendary composer of American popular song and jazz during the 20th century

Feature

Jamie Branch's 2023 album "Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))"
On the Turntable— The “Best Of the ‘Best Of’” in 2023 jazz recordings...A year-end compilation of jazz albums oft mentioned by a wide range of critics as being the best of 2023 - including the late trumpeter Jamie Branch's Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Poetry

art by Russell duPont
These poems are new submissions by six poets relatively new to Jerry Jazz Musician, and are an example of the writing I have the privilege of encountering on a regular basis.

Interview

IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Poetry

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. This edition is influenced by Stillpoint, the 2021 album by Zen practitioner Barrett Martin

Playlist

“Latin Tinges in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...A nine-hour long Spotify playlist featuring songs by the likes of Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Ahmad Jamal, and Dizzy Gillespie that demonstrates how the Latin music influence on jazz has been present since the music’s beginnings.

Poetry

[Columbia Legacy]
“On Becoming A Jazz Fanatic In The Early 1970’s” – 20 linked short poems by Daniel Brown

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Feature

George Shearing/Associated Booking Corporation/James Kriegsmann, New York, via Wikimedia Commons
True Jazz Stories: “An Evening With George,” by Terry Sanville...The writer tells his story of playing guitar with a symphony orchestra, backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

Short Fiction

Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/via Picryl.com
“Afloat” – a finalist in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest – is about a troubled man in his 40s who lessens his worries by envisioning himself and loved ones on a boat that provides safety and ease for all of them.

Poetry

The poet Connie Johnson in 1981
In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories...A collection of the remarkable poet's work is woven among her audio readings, a personal narrative of her journey and music she considers significant to it, providing readers the chance to experience the full value of her gifts.

Book Excerpt

Book Excerpt from Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, by Judith Tick...The author writes about highlights of Ella’s career, and how the significance of her Song Book recordings is an example of her “becoming” Ella.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII

Interview

photo courtesy of Henry Threadgill
Interview with Brent Hayes Edwards, co-author (with Henry Threadgill) of Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music...The author discusses his work co-written with Threadgill, the composer and multi-instrumentalist widely recognized as one of the most original and innovative voices in contemporary music, and the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Playlist

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“A Baker’s Dozen Playlist of Ella Fitzgerald Specialties from Five Decades,” as selected by Ella biographer Judith Tick...Chosen from Ella’s entire repertoire, Ms. Tick’s intriguing playlist (with brief commentary) is a mix of studio recordings, live dates, and video, all available for listening here.

Poetry

"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #169

This trumpeter was in the 1932 car accident that took the life of famed clarinetist/saxophonist Frankie Techemacher (pictured), and is best remembered for his work with Eddie Condon’s bands. Who was he?

Interview

From the Interview Archive: A 2011 conversation with Alyn Shipton, author of Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway...In this interview, Shipton discusses Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the country’s most beloved entertainers.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII...announcing the six Jerry Jazz Musician-published writers nominated for the prestigious literary award

Poetry

Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“Devotion” – a poem and 11 “Musings on Monk,” by Connie Johnson

Photography

photo of Mal Waldron by Giovanni Piesco
Beginning in 1990, the noted photographer Giovanni Piesco began taking backstage photographs of many of the great musicians who played in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, that city’s main jazz venue which is considered one of the finest in the world. Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish portraits of jazz musicians that Giovanni has taken over the years. This edition is of the pianist/composer Mal Waldron, taken on three separate appearances at Bimhuis (1996, 2000 and 2001).

Interview

Leffler, Warren K/Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin...

Community

FOTO:FORTEPAN / Kölcsey Ferenc Dunakeszi Városi Könyvtár / Petanovics fényképek, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
.“Community Bookshelf, #1"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Short Fiction

photo by Thomas Leuthard/Wikimedia Commons
“The Winslows Take New Orleans” a short story by Mary Liza Hartong...This story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, tells the tale of Uncle Cheapskate and Aunt Whiner, those pesky relatives you love to hate and hate to love.

Short Fiction

painting of Gaetano Donizetti by Francesco Coghetti/via Wikimedia Commons
“A Single Furtive Tear” – a short story by Dora Emma Esze...A short-listed entry in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, the story is a heartfelt, grateful monologue to one Italian composer, dead and immortal of course, whose oeuvre means so much to so many of us.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950’s Quartets...Long regarded as jazz music’s most eminent baritone saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan was a central figure in “cool” jazz whose contributions to it also included his important work as a composer and arranger. Noted jazz scholar Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950s Quartets, and Jerry Jazz Musician contributing writer Bob Hecht discuss Mulligan’s unique contributions to modern jazz.

Book Excerpt

“Chick” Webb was one of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the “Savoy King,” who reigned at Harlem’s world-famous Savoy Ballroom. Stephanie Stein Crease is the first to fully tell Webb’s story in her biography, Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America…The book’s entire introduction is excerpted here.

Short Fiction

pixabay.com via Picryl.com
“The Silent Type,” a short story by Tom Funk...The story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Short Fiction Contest, is inspired by the classic Bob Dylan song “Tangled Up in Blue” which speculates about what might have been the back story to the song.

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music, by Henry Threadgill and Brent Hayes Edwards

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Art

Designed for Dancing: How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance: “Outtakes” — Vol. 2...In this edition, the authors Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder share examples of Cha Cha Cha record album covers that didn't make the final cut in their book

Pressed for All Time

“Pressed For All Time,” Vol. 17 — producer Joel Dorn on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 1967 album, The Inflated Tear

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive